Hiding hunger: food insecurity in middle America
This is a community based research project using a case study of 20 people living in middle America who are food insecure, but do not use food pantries. The participants’ rate of actual hunger is twice that of food insecure community members who use food pantries. Since most of the participants are not poor, the Asset Vulnerability Framework (AVF) is used to classify causes of food insecurity. The purpose of the study is to identify why participants are food insecure and why they do not use food pantries. Findings reveal that the participants restrict the quality and quantity of food eaten as a strategy to manage their budget. Following AVF, this strategy allows them to offset lower returns to labor assets, cover rising costs of human capital investment, protect their two most important productive assets of housing and transportation, and compensate for household relationships that increase their vulnerability. In addition, food insecurity itself inhibited social capital formation, further increasing vulnerability. The main reasons the participants do not use food pantries is to protect their social capital assets: almost all of the participants hid their hunger from colleagues, friends, relatives, and even the people they lived with. The participants described fear of societal shaming and blaming as motivations for hiding their hunger. However, using food pantries could reduce their food insecurity. Therefore, there was a feedback loop between food insecurity and social capital: food insecurity reduced social capital and efforts to protect social capital prevented participants from improving food security by using food pantries.
KeywordsAsset Vulnerability Framework Community based research Poverty shaming
Asset Vulnerability Framework
Economic Research Service
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
United States Department of Agriculture
- Basiotis, P. P., and Lino, M. 2003. Food insufficiency and prevalence of overweight among adult women. Family Economics and Nutrition Review 15 (2): 55–57.Google Scholar
- Caraher, M., and J. Coveney, Eds. 2016. Food poverty and insecurity: International food inequalities. Switzerland: Springer.Google Scholar
- Coleman-Jenson, A., M.P. Rabbitt, C. Gregory, and A. Singh. 2015. Household food security in the United States in 2014, ERR 194. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2015. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err194.aspx. Accessed 29 Aug 2016.
- Economic Research Service, Economic Research Service (USDA ERS). 2016. Survey questions used by USDA to assess household food security. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/measurement.aspx#survey. Accessed 13 June 2016.
- Edin, K., M. Boyd, J. Mabli, J. Ohls, J. Worthington, S. Greene, N. Redel, and S. Sridharan. 2013. SNAP food security in-depth interview study. US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Research and Analysis, March 2013. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/SNAPFoodSec.pdf. Accessed 30 Aug 2016.
- Natale, M. E. and D. A. Super. 1991. The case against the Thrifty Food Plan as the basis for the food component of the AFDC standard of need. Clearinghouse Review 86. http://povertylaw.org/clearinghouse/article/case-against-thrifty-food-plan-basis-food-component-afdc-standard-need. Accessed 6 Sept 2016.
- Proctor, B. D., J. L. Semega, and M. A. Kollar. 2016. Income and poverty in the United States: 2015. US Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-256. http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.pdf. Accessed 15 Sept 2016.
- Schanzenbach, D. W., L. Bauer, and G. Nanzt. 2016. Twelve facts about food insecurity and SNAP. The Hamilton Project, The Brookings Institute. http://www.hamiltonproject.org/papers/twelve_facts_about_food_insecurity_and_snap. Accessed 30 Aug 2016.
- US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (USDA ERS). 2015. Definitions of food security. http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security.aspx. Accessed 13 June 2016.
- US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (USDA ERS). 2016. Survey questions used by USDA to assess household food security. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/measurement.aspx#survey. Accessed 13 June 2016.
- Weinfield, N.S., G. Mills, C. Borger, M. Gearing, T. Macaluso, J. Montaquila, and S. Zedlewski. 2014. Hunger in America 2014: national report prepared for Feeding America. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf?s_src=W175ORGSC&s_referrer=yahoo&s_subsrc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.feedingamerica.org%2F&_ga=2.29145400.585988428.1494963252-845492206.1494963226. Accessed 16 May 2017.
- Wilde, P. E., and J. N. Peterman 2006. Individual weight change is associated with household food security status. Journal of Nutrition 136: 1395–1400.Google Scholar
- Yellen, J. L. 2016. The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy toolkit: past, present, and future. At Designing resilient monetary policy frameworks for the future, a symposium sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, August 26, 2016. https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/yellen20160826a.htm. Accessed 6 Sept 2016.
- Zepeda, L. and A. Reznickova. 2016. Potential demand for local fresh produce by mobile markets. Selected paper at the 2016 American Agricultural Economics Association meetings, Boston. http://www.localandorganicfood.org. Accessed 30 Aug 2016.